Embattled Lexington fire chief plans to appeal denial of his disability request

fire chief to ask panel to reconsider

jkegley@herald-leader.comOctober 19, 2011 

The city's move to oust Fire Chief Robert Hendricks has stalled once more because the embattled chief plans to appeal the denial of his disability pension.

The city's law department had planned to request a date at an Urban County Council work session for a termination hearing regarding Hendricks. However, the issue was not addressed at the meeting Tuesday.

City spokeswoman Susan Straub said that's because Hendricks' attorney told the city Friday that he plans to ask the police and fire pension board to reconsider their decision.

"That delays the scheduling of the termination hearing," she said.

Attorney Mark Wohlander confirmed Tuesday that Hendricks plans to appeal that board's decision.

"We're entitled under statute to file a motion for reconsideration, essentially an appeal," he said.

Wohlander said he hadn't had a chance to sit down to discuss the motion with Hendricks, but that they would file the appeal before the Nov. 1 deadline.

On Oct. 12, the police and fire pension board voted unanimously to deny Hendricks a disability pension based on the reports of three doctors, two of whom concluded that Hendricks is not "totally and permanently disabled," officials have said.

Hendricks' exact claim of disability has not been made public. Wohlander has said that Hendricks is suffering from a psychiatric problem, but did not elaborate.

Citing lack of leadership, low morale and a drastically exceeded overtime budget at the Lexington Division of Fire, Mayor Jim Gray publicly asked Hendricks to resign in February. Hendricks did not resign, and efforts to seek his dismissal were stalled after he requested the disability pension in May.

If Hendricks is granted a disability, it will be the second pension he is drawing from Lexington's pension system for police and firefighters. Hendricks was granted a service pension when he retired as a district major in 1997, officials have said. He was rehired as chief in 2002.

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